Can police radio sway the masses?
Judging by the shellacking that the Nigeria police received from the masses during the EndSARS protests, in October last year, Nigerians in their majority obviously did not recognise the police as a friend. This is indeed a sad measure for the police as policy summersault led to increase in messy and nasty controversies caused by some unscrupulous elements in the police force. Over the years, the ugly issues have not only made the populace aghast, but to see the police as an object of coarse jokes and dark-some insinuations in the society. The police immoral acts was perhaps best captured by the former Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mike Okiro while speaking about the detestable national ethos in an interview as he lamented that in the good old days when the system worked well a police officer was highly respected. The decay in the system according to him opened a window for SARS, a unit within the police force to be so notorious in its dealings with the society especially the youth. This made Nigerians during the EndSARS protest to vent their anger, disdain and frustration against the police.
However, it seems obvious that sooner than later, the Nigeria police will find its way to the heart of masses as plans have been concluded for the police to easily court the friendship of Nigerians through police community radio. Therefore, some irregularities if not all the negative perceptions would be a thing of the past as the Nigeria police is bent on building its image positively and restore confidence on the people through the air waves. Please don’t get the idea twisted with the general saying that if you can’t beat them, you join them, such literal sense should not really be understood in that context here. This is because, the Nigeria police have resolved to make our society safer through the air waves by feeding Nigerians with the right kind of information.
It is no longer news that, the advent of the internet and other social media platforms has triggered the news media to become an all comers affair where anyone with a gadget that can send and receive information automatically becomes a journalist. Therefore, citizen journalism has become a threat to information dissemination in recent times as fake and false news now rule the internet world.
The proposition to change the narrative about fake news as well as give the police an opportunity to redeem its image, was made known the other day by the senior special assistance to President Muhammadu Buhari on media, Garba Shehu who spoke at the opening of the police community radio, 99.1FM, and challenged the police to use the radio station platform to address fake and false news in the country. He noted that “The radio is coming at a time when fake news is a big issue in the country, big problem globally,” So life will be better “if the police have a radio station that you can tune to and listen to only that which is right, correct and the truth”. Good talk indeed. But in a situation whereby the police air station is doing all the true talk, image laundering and correcting misinformation, one hopes that the (land) stations do not continue engaging in those actions that brings disrepute to the noble profession of policing.
There is no gainsaying that, on several occasions, the police have the efficiency of shooting down peaceful protesters even before they become violent rioters or arresting and locking up innocent citizens for years without trial, nearly every Nigerian have been taught the bitter lessons from the police woeful performances. Aside the above ugly instances, the police regularly invite jest and mockery for itself when ignoble police officers ignore their responsibility and decide to stoop so low to accept token tips with a smile and salute to law breakers, especially motorists, traffic offenders in public glare. In recent times, there is hardly any police action which is anything short of diminishing character or controversial. Several encounters either as an attempt to quell a robbery attack or individual disagreements with the Nigeria police, the consequences are usually tragic with accidental discharge cases or severe beating or loss of lives, wreckage and destruction of properties is usually the order of the day.
Without going into the rhetoric of why the police force is losing its respect among the people in recent times, the police radio has an in-depth obligation to inspire positive public confidence in the Nigeria police force.
Therefore, it may be too early to expect tangible results from the police radio, going by the great expectations from those behind its creation. The senior special assistant on media, Garba, already is trumpeting the spontaneous changes the police radio would bring into the broadcasting industry. First, he believes that the police radio will have that charm and charisma on the Nigerian people that, after listening to other radio stations, Nigerians would tune to the police radio to confirm what they have heard elsewhere. Without playing the devil’s advocate, to use the police radio as a Two Step Theory in verifying what is heard in other radio stations would take a while before most members of the public take the police radio in confidence and seriously too. This is as a result of the wide gap already in existence between the police and the people over undue harassment and intimidations from the police. Anyway, one hopes that the police radio should be able to have that persuasive power and reportage excellence that would seize the people’s attention and bring the police closer to the people by strengthen the bond between citizens and the police.
However, to accomplish all these feats, the police radio must fulfill its own part of the social responsibility contract. Therefore, it should be ready to report objectively and give a succinct analysis of any unholy business activities of dubious members of the public as well as officers and men of the Nigeria police force. Aside, the above, it is important for the Nigeria police to be more professional and civilised in their dealings with citizens. For their continued taking the wrong steps in handling situations and dehumanising the masses would portray the police as having less than adequate appreciation and love of the Nigerian people at heart. As a guide, the police should adhere to the advice from the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo who, the other day, after decorating Usman Alkali Baba with the rank of Inspector General of Police (IGP) said: “…the police must now rebuild in some ways, the broken bridges of trust to the public and regain the confidence of the citizenry…you must stamp out the excesses and abuses and the culture of impunity demonstrated by some elements of the force which provoke public outrage against institutions…” A word, our elders say is enough for the wise.